Last Sunday’s readings were full of shepherds – bad shepherds who didn’t care for the flock, the Lord our Shepherd who would leave us wanting for nothing, God’s promise to send a good shepherd who would care for his people, and Jesus’ gaze upon the people, who moved him, because they “were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34)”
In our relationships, sometimes we’re sheep and sometimes we’re the shepherds. And some of us are better at being one than the other. When are you a sheep and when are you a shepherd? Has your role shifted throughout your lifetime? What about your preference? Maybe your parents are older and now you have taken on more of the role as shepherd? Or maybe your career has taken you to a different role as well? What are you more comfortable as?
The two newest additions to our family put me straight into the role of shepherd. Especially now that they’re potty training. And I don’t mean kitty-litter training, I mean potty training!
This has been an exciting development, especially for my husband who had the task of cleaning out the litter. The kitties quickly adjusted and are on the last ring of the training process. The last step is taking a lot longer for them to figure out and they’ve had a few accidents at this stage.
It’s disappointing to see our “sheep” fail when they have been doing so well. It’s tempting to be upset, and yet we’re stuck, unable to communicate with them to see what went wrong and how we can avoid it in the future because, well…they’re kittens! After one particularly egregious accident, I thought maybe if I showed it to them they’d understand, but of course they didn’t, they’re kittens!
As I showed them the problem and they looked back at me curiously, I said a silent prayer of thanks that God wasn’t like me when we His sheep get in trouble. Would we like having our past mistakes shoved in our faces? No! He calls us nicely into a state that is pure and good – much like we’re calling the kittens to change their behavior to a more sanitary way that is good for us and them! That’s not to say that sometimes we have to endure hardship because of mistakes that we’ve made in the past, but God certainly doesn’t give up or lose hope on us, rather, He’s waiting to help us move closer and closer to him. If we fail, the Good Shepherd still loves His sheep and guides us.
Today is the Feast day of Sts. Anne and Joachim, Mary’s parents. What saintly examples of sheep and shepherds! The Protoevangelium of James, one of the apocryphal books, states that Anne and Joachim suffered from infertility for many years. Anne begs God for a child and an angel promises that she shall “conceive and gift birth and the fruit of thy womb shall be blessed by all the world.” As sheep, they trust in God their Shepherd, and in turn they are blessed to Shepherd the mother of God.
Through suffering, the Shepherd is still there with us. His plan for us is amazing, if only we trust that the Good Shepherd will never leave us, will always provide for us, and will find us if we stray.
As sheep, it’s our goal to accept hardships, trusting that our Shepherd is watching over us and has different, and often more wonderful, blessings for us in store than what our own plans desire.
Halo Tip #1: If you find yourself more of a shepherd, look for a role model that you can be a “sheep” for. How will you let that person mold and guide you? If you tend to be a sheep, look for opportunities to be a shepherd – maybe you can volunteer with youth or take on a new responsibility in a ministry at your parish.
Note: Reflections in this blog are my own and do not represent the positions of my employer.